Remember a couple of months ago, when hedge fund giant Carl Icahn went nuclear on hedge fund giant Bill Ackman for short-selling Herbalife stock? Turns out the spat might've made both men millions. On Sunday night, The Wall Street Journal reported that Icahn is up $25 million on his $590 million investment in Herbalife, but Ackerman made $200 million after betting over $1 billion against Herbalife.
It's hard to peg the gains on a single event. Herbalife itself has been quite the success story having become an $8 billion supplement empire in just over three decades. Folks like Ackman also think that it's a pyramid scheme that destroys people's lives and accused the company of fudging its numbers. Ackman's very public trashing of Herbalife came to a climax at the end of January when the he and Icahn went head-to-head for a full hour on CNBC using such grownup, tough guy words as "crybaby," "liar," "loser," and "bullshit." The aftermath of the televised word fight kept Herbalife in the news in the weeks that followed and, eventually, Icahn, who hadn't disclosed his financial stake in Herbalife, was compelled to admit that he had indeed invested in the company, despite the hate. The stock price skyrocketed.
So now everybody looks sort of sleazy. If you do believe Herbalife is a pyramid scheme that's exploiting the complexes Middle Americans have with their bodies, Icahn looks a villain for investing a ten-figure sum and making the company the money-sucking behemoth it is today. On the other side of the coin, Ackman hardly looks like a prince for building negative buzz around Herbalife, all the while raising the company's profile and sending cash into his own pocket. Very sly, Carl. There's even a third character: Daniel Loeb of his own hedge fund, Third Point. Loeb's sided with Ackman and although he couldn't be seen swinging at Icahn on CNBC, he did sit back and watch his $200 million bet against Herbalife earn him $50 million.
As with all investments, it's never time to declare victory until you cash out. All three of the men still have some capital tied up in Herbalife stock. As one analyst pointed out to The Journal, "It's one thing to have a paper profit, it's another thing to actually realize the profits."
Correction: An earlier version of this story reversed Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman's positions on Herbalife in several instances. We've adjusted the wording of the story accordingly.